gray wolf
The gray wolf. Image: USFWS Pacific/Flickr/CC BY

The gray wolf will be taken off the endangered species list, a U.S. Department of the Interior statement said Wednesday. Populations of the wolves in the Great Lakes area are now healthy and no longer require government protection, administration officials said.

Protected for four decades

For the last four decades, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has protected the gray wolf population in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and portions of adjoining states. After spending tens of millions of dollars on the survival of the wolves, that will soon be no more.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said:

“Once again, the Endangered Species Act has proved to be an effective tool for bringing species back from the brink of extinction. Thanks to the work of our scientists, wildlife managers, and our state, tribal, and stakeholder partners, gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region are now fully recovered and healthy.”

Recovery goals met

American wolves were placed on the Endangered Species List in 1974. Since that time, their population in the U.S. has grown five times. There are more than 4,000 gray wolves in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, officials said. That more than exceeds recovery goals of the agency. The populations will continue to be monitored for at least the next five years to ensure the wolves continue to thrive. The Obama Administration said that the formal delisting will take place in January. The move follows similar actions in five western states.

The hunting of wolves

The lifted protection could pave the way for wolf hunting seasons, to be regulated state by state. The hunting of wolves by ranchers protecting their livestock depleted the wolf population significantly in the past.

With the lifting of restrictions, it is now legal to kill and trap wolves in Montana and Idaho. Local officials are seeking to lower their numbers to minimize attacks on elk herds and farm animals from the predators. Many fear this trend could lead to a repeat of the past as wolf packs dwindle.

Collette Adkins Giese of the Center for Biological Diversity said:

“Wolf recovery in the Midwest has been a tremendous success, but the job is far from complete. The three Great Lakes states with wolves all plan to kill more wolves and to reduce populations through hunts and other means. Wolves remain threatened by human intolerance and persecution. More should be done to help people live with wolves and increase tolerance before protections are removed.”

Wolf relocation

Some would like to see the wolves caught and relocated to areas where they can thrive and not be hunted. Wide unpopulated regions in the Rockies and the Northwest are ideal places for the wolves, some say.

Ed Bangs, a biologist who formerly worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said:

“Wolves, next to people, are one of the most adaptable animals in the world. The key with wolves is, it’s all about human tolerance.”



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